In spring and summer flower gardens come back to life across the East End. Spring is the season of bulbs and perennials, and the earliest annual flowers. It begins with snowdrops, crocuses, pansies, daffodils and narcissus, and finishes with peonies, poppies and impatiens. Most perennial gardens reach their peak in late spring and early summer. Dianthus – garden pinks – are related to carnations, and their small clove-scented flowers are delightful. Perennial relatives of the geraniums that are stalwarts of summer pots and planters, called cranesbills for the shape of their long, narrow seedpods, grace the front of the spring garden with simple flowers in pretty shades of pink, purple, white and even blue. Airy, graceful coralbells, or heucheras, come into bloom in late spring, and most continue into midsummer. Their tall slender stems of tiny bell-shaped flowers in red, white or pink are carried above low mounds of rounded, ivy-shaped leaves which may be green, patterned, or purple and add color to the garden all summer. Irises and peonies are queens of the late spring garden. The best known are the bearded, Siberian and Japanese types, which bloom in shades of purple, pink, yellow, violet and white.
Peonies come in two forms – the most familiar is the herbaceous perennial kind that dies back to the ground in winter and sends out new stems each spring. The large single or double blossoms are showy and often sweetly fragrant, and come in many shades or red, rose and pink, as well as cream and white. Peonies are easy to grow, and in my garden (at least so far) not devoured by deer. If you are able to exclude deer from your flower garden, tulips should be part of it. There are thousands of cultivars and a tremendous selection of heights, colors and blooming times, and several different flower forms. Plant the bulbs in fall for a dazzling display in spring.
Spring-blooming shrubs such as forsythias, azaleas, rhododendrons, pieris and lilacs also add color to spring landscapes. Roses, too, begin to bloom in spring and by late spring rose gardens are filled with color and fragrance. Old garden roses, varieties that have been grown for centuries, are loved for their intoxicating fragrance. Newer varieties created by David Austin are also richly scented and easier to grow; many local nurseries carry them. Many roses will continue to bloom sporadically in summer, and some, such as the Knock Out varieties, will reward you with flowers all summer, if you can keep the deer out of your garden.
As spring turns into summer, the rosy reds and pinks of late spring peonies continue in roses and hollyhocks, along with the brilliant colors of annuals – yellow and orange marigolds, scarlet salvias, hot magenta or salmon impatiens. This is also the time for geraniums in a range of warm tones, and petunias in just about every shade of pink, red and purple, along with white and pale yellow. Deep blues are also in evidence. For example, blue salvias are wonderful companions for gold, white and melon-colored flowers. Annual bachelor’s buttons in their classic blue are delightful in bouquets and vases, where they seem to bring a bit of the summer sky indoors. And gardeners across the East End await the return of hydrangeas, the iconic Hamptons flower, later in the season.